Thursday, January 31, 2013

Annie Walls: Taking on the Dead

In her debut novel, Annie Walls enter the paranormal genre with a zombie novel, where even zombies are not what they seem.

Kansas (Kan) is a true survive. She has what it takes to get things done, even if it means killing those you love and is a true survivor. She has survived the past four years alone, scavenging for what she needs as well as gaining the knowledge to make her life easier. One thing she does relish in is killing zombies and she has become very efficient at it. When she stumbles on a small group of people who are under attack, she hesitates to help as she has not seen people for four year, but her human side takes over and she saves them. Kan learns that the new world and zombies are not quite what she expects and with the knowledge she has acquired before and after the world changed she knows she has the ability to help others. But everything that Kan has learned, trained and prepared for may not be enough to survive in this new world.

This is a great debut novel, Walls really knows how to start a series off. I really enjoyed this book. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I first discovered this book when it was on a book blog tour and I was entering all the contests I could to win a copy. The premise and previous reviews sounded so promising, that I needed to get my hands on the book. I was very lucky to get a copy and could not wait to read and review it. This book had basically everything that I want in a zombie novel. It is creepy, dark, at times terrifying and it makes you think that zombies may not be the worst thing in this new world. Although the zombie genre has taken off in the past two years, there seems to be very little variation as to what actually occurs within the actual genre. I enjoyed the twist that Walls puts on the zombies, having them be smarter than the average one, and another twist that is very very interesting but I do not want to give it away, you will need to read the book to discover it yourself. However, it is safe to say that I have not read a zombie novel with this twist.

I loved Kan (real name Kansas City Sunshine Moore....yeah don't even get me started on that one...) as a character, especially at the beginning. She is a great mix of strong and soft (when you get to see that side of her) and you become very impressed at her ability to survive by herself for four years and you do not fault her with her wanting but not wanting company. She also has put the four years she has lived alone to great use by absorbing as much knowledge as she can as she never knows what might be useful to her. However, somewhere around the three-quarters part of the book, I found that Walls loses Kan as a character, she changes, not for the better. All of a sudden she is taking risks that she would not before and has now decided to rely on the men who are around her. I was like I want the old Kan back and I was confused as to what happened to her and that she could lose who she was so quickly. It appeared that by the end of the book the old Kan was coming back but I won’t really know till the next book.

I appreciate that Walls does not overdue the romance or sex within the book, as this seems to be the norm in most of the books that are written these days. There is definite tension between Kan and two characters, and I personally love Rudy, but I am sure there are those that will choose Mac. One thing about having more people around, as I feel we lose a bit of Kan in the process. Like J. L Bourne's novels my favorite parts of this book are when Kan is fending for herself or when there are very few people around her. I feel that this makes her strive to survive instead of just relying on those around here and let’s be honest Kan is a true survivor and warrior.

The one aspect that I found that was cliché in the book/plot/storyline/ is the idea of women being breading stock, but in all reality this is probably what would occur, as there will always be some cult/person/government agency that feels they should be the ones to control repopulating the Earth. Also I was not too sure about the government they kept talking about but it made very little appearance in the book, so I hoping that aspect will be developed further in the other novels

If you are looking for your next zombie read, make sure to pick this one up at the book store, I think that it has a little bit of everything for those who like the zombie genre. I cannot wait for the next book to be published to see what happens next. Walls has set a very high standard with her debut novel and I think will be an author to watch out for.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jamie Freveletti (Robert Ludlum): The Janus Reprisal

Jamie Freveletti takes her first instance of writing for the very famous Robert Ludlum in the covert-one series that Ludlum was never able to complete himself.

 It begins with a terrorist attack at a hotel where Covert-One operative Colonel Jon Smith is attending a conference in The Hague on infectious diseases, together with leading scientists and political figures from around the world.This is no random attack, these terrorist know what they are looking for and who to kill in order to make their mission a success. But the hotel is not the only target, the airport, train stations and the criminal court are all attacked, leaving people wondering what and who are the overall target. All Smith knows that what was stole from the Hotel has the potential to shape the world and he needs to figure out quick what the plan is. Smith is about to be visited by someone from his past who has more than enough reasons to want him dead.

When I started to read this book I was unaware that there were several books before it, I guess this is my fault as I should have looked as most of the books that have Ludlums name attached to it will be part of a series. Due to not reading the books before I felt like there was a piece of a puzzle and that I was missing some of Dattar and Smith's history. I'm still not sure if they one of the other books has Dattar's capture in it, I could not tell from the other books synopsizes. I also did not know any of the history of the Covert-One group therefore, there were people that I did not know what the relationships within that group or even what the grouped wanted to achieve and who the group worked for, so this added to my overall confusion within the book.

For me this book was okay and I had a hard time getting into the book in general despite the fact that the book starts out at a relatively fast pace. There are quite a few actions scenes throughout the book and I enjoyed that Freveletti was okay with Smith getting hurt when the action ensures. I specifically liked the scene with the mustard gas, I mean who uses mustard gas these days, it was a nice and interesting twist that I did not see coming. I found one aspect that this book was missing was some sort of mystery, the reader knows the bad guy (but so does the hero) but also what Dattar is trying to achieve and as much as Freveletti attempted to hide who the mole was, I found it fairly easy to figure out and was forever waiting for someone in the book to catch up to me.

The book was an interesting story and idea, however, it is one that I am finding more common now though. I think that biological warfare has taken over as the popular idea in the action adventure novels, kind of like how the zombie theme has taken over the paranormal, urban fantasy genre. However, with the biological warfare idea I find that there is less deviation from between the storylines. I have yet to read an book, where the author added a true twist to the subject.

While reading the book, I did not become invested in any of the characters. I do not know if this is because I have not read the previous books to this one where Smith is the main character or the overall lack of character development done by Freveletti. I'm actually leaning to the prospect that it is both .I like that Nolan in this book, she was pretty resourceful for a women who is used to working the stock market and not dodging bullets. I think that there is more to Nolan's past than Fereveletti let on and I wonder if she will be in the next book. I really liked that Nolan kept trying to avoid being helped, it was an interesting twist from the usual damsel in distress in these types of books and Nolan showed a lot of strength throughout the book.

I think that with any series you should always start from the beginning, and I think that this was my mistake with this book. If you have read the previous books I think that you will like this one as well, though this is the first one that Freveletti has written so it would be interesting to see if the book's overall style, flow, writing and plot are different from the other books before this one.

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On a side note I know that this series was supposed to be created by Robert Ludlum, but I had a hard time finding which ones he had written but according to Wikipedia he did not write any of them, that they are based upon some of his ideas, but who really knows. This makes me think that these authors are just writing under Ludlums name in order to get people to pick up the book, which I do not appreciate. If your writing is not enough to stand out on it's own then maybe you should change something in your writing, maybe this is an author's way to attempt to get a head start in the literary world. I also would like to know who decides on who can use Ludlum's name as there are several different authors that have written novels in this Covert-One series. Sorry for the rant, but I was not completely aware, that this book really did not have anything to do with Ludlum or anything that has been well documented.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Laura Lippman: Baltimore Blues

This is the first book in Laura Lippman's Tess Monagham series. Lippman tries her hand at writing a novel after spending 20 years as a journalist and she is sticking within what she knows with the characters and plot. The first Tess Monagham story is about an out of work journalist with a passion for rowing and snooping when there is a pay check behind it:

Tess Monagham has been down in the employment department for several years now. Ever since she lost her job when the Star newspaper went under she has struggled to find a new journalist position, she has been working at he aunt's bookstore mostly but also writing some media releases for he uncle every one in awhile, but nothing with real career potential for her. However, in the city of Baltimore where there is a murder every day Tess was bound to be stuck in the middle of one eventually. Hired by a rowing buddy of hers, Rock, to follow his fiancé he suspects of cheating, Tess may feel sleazy about doing it but she really needs the money. What Tess does not expect to find is a selfish woman who is willing to do anything and everything to get her way and when Tess confronts her it sets off a change of events that no one could have foreseen. Where the past and present mysteries come together, Tess finds herself in the line of fire where her name could be the next on the homicide list in Baltimore.

I really wanted to like this book, as there appears to be quite a few books within the series and I am always looking for new series to get into that are already established so I am not constantly waiting for the next book to come out. This book was okay and the overall feeling I had when finishing this book was "meh".  The book was easy to read and follow, with some fairly good twists and turns thrown in, but overall I felt like the book moved slowly and I never felt the suspense or overall need to never put the book down while reading this book, the book was just there when I needed it. Overall, this book lacked something interesting occurring. Events just happened and flowed too smoothly into each other, there was no bang or what I think would be a huge discovery. If there was a discovery, I found that Tess lacked the ability to see what was in front of her and where she should go next. In general I felt the book fell a little bit flat, except for what felt like a rush to the finish as I never felt really suspense in the book. Yes, there is some mystery but I found the investigation part by once Journalist Tess to be boring.

I had a hard time relating to the main character Tess. She has been out of work for over two years, and really does not seem to have any ambition to pursue a new career or find something else within journalism. She seems content to be unemployed especially when her family is there to help support her and this also gives her the freedom to continue her training as a rower. I am not sure what skills an investigative journalist should have but I think that Lippman does a good job of giving Tess the tools that she needs to succeed in investigations (I liked that she was able to pull from people who she had done interviews or stories about in the past) but I do not think that she put the tools to great use or the best of her ability. Additionally, there were many times within the book that I felt that her investigation was secondary. A character that I think would have been an interesting aspect in the story or if there was more of him is the guy that is called "twisted fucker", not kidding that is his nickname. He was an interesting character and a story about him would have been very interesting, although disturbing, but the story would not have been boring.

I think that Lippman has a good ability to write and tell a story, there was just something missing throughout the book. I think that it may have been that the murder investigation always feeling secondary to Tess trying to rediscover herself, or determine what she is doing with her life but then never really doing anything about it. However, this book was easy to read. I would suggest either borrowing this book from the library or picking it up at a used book store. There was nothing too memorable in the book that would leave me coming back for more. I may pick up (and by pick up I mean borrow from the library) to see if the second book is better, but this would be when my TBR shelf had disappear (something that is not going to happen any time soon).

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Anthony Francis: Blood Rock

This is the second book in Anthony Francis' Dakota Frost series. If you are interested in this book or series you do need to read the first book Frost Moon, before this one as it the main introduction to Dakota's powers, relationship as well as the main development of Dakota's world.

Dakota Frost the best magical tattoo artist in the south is back and trying to get her life back to normal. Well as normal as her life can be when attempting to adopt Cinnamon a werecat, as well as trying to keep a relationship going with Phillip when he is in town and making sure that she still has cliental to pay the bills. When Dakota is called to the scene of a police situation, she has no idea what to expect, but the police seem to think that she will be the expert, but how wrong they were. Someone has developed a way to create magical graffiti, similar to the magic that Dakota does with her tattooing but someone has infused paint with the ability to move and with being able to move it gives the graffiti the ability to attack with deadly consequences. This graffiti is spreading throughout Atlanta and attacking everything, people, wares and vampires. Dakota is an expert in tattooing and not graffiti, but as she keeps showing up to try to help those caught by the graffiti and figure out the graffiti works, the police believe Dakota is the problem. Now on the run from the graffiti artist as well as police Dakota needs to figure out quick how the graffiti magic works, or she is going to loose everyone she loves.

This book had me involved right from the first pages and it made me wonder why I took so long to pick up this book to read as I really enjoyed basically everything from the first novel, and I am glad that Francis has not disappointed in the second. Francis has an uncanny ability to create a unique world that is both interesting and easy to follow, something different within the paranormal genre as well as a great, well rounded and believable main character (well as believable as a character can be in this genre). Additionally, Francis is not afraid to take risks. In this book you will really question who is going to come out alive in the end as there are some major deaths that I do not think that others would have had the guts to do because they were people who were/are important to Dakota. I think that by taking risks 

I love Dakota as a character, she is a great mix of hard and soft especially when it come to her daughter Cinnamon and her friends, but she has that takes no prisoner attitude when it comes to people who want to harm her or those that she cares about. You really get to see the harder/darker side of Dakota, especially near the end of the book, she does things I did not think that she was capable of in this book. Francis does a great job in allowing Dakota to change and develop as a character based upon what is occurring around her, which means there are times where Dakota steps way out of her character's element. Dakota's power of tattoo magic and skin-dancing is amazing. I personally think that Dakota's powers are extremely cool; I mean you can have an arsenal of "weapons" or "helpers" at you beck in call but you have to be able to go through some pain first in order to achieve them. Plus the stigmatization that someone would have to go through, I know Dakota does does not care, but it is still there. I think that dealing with this makes Dakota a very strong person and character.

There is a lot, and I mean a lot that occurs within this book. It really gets to the point where the reader will ask is there really anything else that could happen to Dakota? There is really everything that a reader can think of that occurs to Dakota in this book. It appears like Francis was trying to put too much into the book and maybe got a little overwhelmed with all the ideas that he had. I think the only thing that remains constant is her job as a magical tattooist, but even that is threatened slightly. With everything occurring I questioned whether this was going to be Dakota's last novel based upon everything that Francis was throwing at her (but do not worry fans there is a third book coming out this year hopefully).

Math has never been my strong suit; therefore, physics is pretty much over my head as well. There were points in the book where the math and physics theories that was being used to explain the magical graffiti that I found confusing and rereading over these part. There is no question that Francis is a very smart man. Using physics and math in order to explain how graffiti magic could work is very clever, however, I just found the explanation a little overwhelming. I found myself doing the smile and nod to the book and trying to pretend I understood what was going on. I think that Francis could have dialed this down a little bit and possible used more laymen terms within the explanation to help those of us that are mathematically or physics inclined.

This was a great follow up to the first novel, although I was not that crazy about all the math and physics terminology that Francis used, this did not detract very much from my overall enjoyment of the novel. I think those who enjoyed the first will also like the second as well. I am looking forward to the release of the third book Liquid Fire.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Darynda Jones: First Grave on the Right

In the first book in her Charley Davidson series, Darynda Jones introduces readers to the Grim Reaper, but this is not your typical Grim Reaper.

Charley Davidson can see dead people, no she really can. She has been able to see dead people since the day that she was born. It was not until later in life that she realized that it was her job to lead and sometimes convince them to go into the light (which just happens to radiate from her). However, convincing them is not always an easy thing, especially when the individual has been murdered. Charley does what she can to help find the murderer, this is where having a father and an uncle on the police force that makes that much easier. It has also been helpful to her father and uncle's career as well when you can actually ask the victim who killed them. When 3 lawyers show up at the same time looking for Charley's assistance, she knows that something big is occurring in her city. If trying to find a mass murdered was not bad enough Charley has noted a shadowy figure that appears to be following her in the realm of the dead, and she can feel that there is something evil about it.

This book actually surprised me. I was very worried from the opening paragraphs that this book was going to be a paranormal romance novel and not an Urban Fantasy book. I thought that it was going to be sex scene after sex scene. Well I am glad to say that my first perspective of the book was wrong, not completely wrong but still wrong. Yes there are some sex scenes and innuendo within the book, but they are not as frequent as I thought that they would be. If you are able to get past the first few paragraphs and do not mind a few short sexy scenes and some comments about men's butts then you should be okay. I know I was able to get past these aspects.

I have never read a book that had the Grim Reaper as the main character, so that one was new to me therefore, interesting as well. I found the interaction with Charley and the other ghosts very interesting, as there are some ghosts that do not want to cross over, for example Angel. Additionally, it was interesting what some ghosts needed to achieve in order to cross over, and I really like that Charley does everything she can to help them, whether it is helping to solve their murder or putting a well placed note somewhere where someone close to the ghost can find it.  Although Jones does not delve too much into what it means to be a Grim Reaper (other than helping people pass over) or how someone is chosen to become the Grim Reaper or if there is even more than one. I am hoping that Jones will explore this further in the other books.

I liked Charley as a character, except for two things. First, I do not like her name, really Charley Davidson, it just sounds silly I do now know why authors think they have to come up funny or witty names for a character (another example if  J.A. Konrath Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series), what is wrong with a regular name. Secondly, I did not like that any time Charley saw any attractive man, she had to make some sort of comment or thought about how hot the guy was or how nice his butt was, it just became annoying over time. Aside from these aspects I found Charley very witty and caring character, she is more than willing to help out the living and the dead, even if it cuts into her regular life (though I do not think that she knows what regular life is).

As I stated above, this book surprised me I thought it was going to be purely a paranormal romance, based upon the first few paragraphs. Therefore, if you have been shying away this book because of that, then you may want to rethink the reading it. I found this book witty, well written and interesting with both the Grim Reaper aspect and the mystery. I will be picking up the second book as I want to see how Jones develops Charley as the Grim Reaper.

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